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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
EU ponders putting movies on web
By Caroline Briggs
BBC News entertainment reporter in Cannes

movies online
Ministers examined the idea of making movies available online
European film-makers are looking to the internet to boost international sales in an industry still dominated by Hollywood.

Culture ministers from across Europe promised to explore issues surrounding the online distribution of movies, after a meeting at the Cannes film festival on Tuesday.

The summit - which also included representatives from the film industry, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and telecoms agencies - discussed possible policies for film distribution online.

Twenty-five culture ministers at the event acknowledged that the chance for film-makers to target new audiences was "huge on the web".

"In Europe, as in other continents, the opportunities for people to enjoy films online are set to increase tremendously over the next few years," said European Union media commissioner Viviane Reding.

The fact this discussion has taken place in Cannes this year... shows that using online distribution is imminent
Tina McFarlind, UK Film Council
"We must take this opportunity to contribute to exploiting new markets and increasing revenue for our film-makers while expanding the choice available to the general public."

UK Film Council spokeswoman Tina McFarlind said it was significant that online movie distribution was being examined.

"The fact this discussion has taken place in Cannes this year and the fact all these culture ministers, ISP providers and industry figures have got together to discuss it, shows that using online distribution is imminent."

Spider-Man 2 DVDs
Pirate copies of movies such as Spider-Man 2 surfaced on the web
Earlier this month UK retailer Tesco announced plans to launch a film downloading service "as soon as possible" to build on the success it has had in the online music sector.

But it said the UK's Broadband capacity was not yet capable of handling movie downloads.

The Cannes meeting also looked at online piracy, with a European leadership summit formed to examine the problem.

"There are indeed risks of a disastrous loss in revenue if the market is inundated with unauthorised file-sharing of films, as has been seen with music," the culture ministers said in a statement.

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell
We need to look at ways of changing children's behaviour towards piracy by repeating the message that it is not a victimless crime
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell
UK Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell told the BBC News website she was concerned about piracy and unauthorised file-sharing on the internet.

"There was a general view that action to tackle piracy was important for the future health of the internet," she said.

"We also need to look at ways of changing children's behaviour towards piracy by repeating the message that it is not a victimless crime."

Ms Jowell added that the UK Film Council was behind the first movie ever to be officially premiered on the internet. This Is Not A Love Song - by Full Monty writer Simon Beaufoy - was launched in September 2003.

Last year the Motion Picture Association of America launched legal action to sue people who facilitate illegal film downloading.

The industry wants to stop people using programs such as BitTorrent to swap movies over the internet.



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